MSC plans to expand Italy cruises

MSC Cruises, which has been operating one of its cruise ships since August 2020, has announced plans to expand operations in Italy. MSC Cruises said that it was also continuing to seek permissions to resume its eastern Mediterranean cruises.

The 153,000 gross ton MSC Seaside (IMO 9745366), which had been operating in North America since its introduction in December 2017, will reposition to the Mediterranean for the summer of 2021. The cruise ship will begin sailing from Genoa on May 1st and will become the line’s second cruise ship to return to service.

The itinerary will include stops in Civitavecchia, which is the port from Rome, and in Malta. It will also visit Syracuse on the island of Sicily and Taranto, a port at the southern tip of the Italian peninsular.

The resumption of cruises on the MSC Seaside will be in addition to the cruises currently operating aboard the MSC Grandiosa (IMO 9803613). That ship is currently sailing weekly cruises between the ports of Genoa, Civitavecchia, Naples, Palermo, and Malta. MSC has extended this programme to run through to May 2021.

Passengers are required to test negative for the coronavirus at the terminal before boarding and a second test is conducted mid-week during the cruise. All of the crew is quarantined before joining the ship and all have weekly Covid-19 tests. Programmes for social distancing and mask-wearing are required on the ship and to go ashore in ports passengers must participate in the line’s organized shore excursions.

MSC is now performing swab testing for the tour guides and drivers of the vehicles used during the excursions.

Capacity is limited onboard the cruise and the cruises are currently available only to residents from Schengen countries, plus Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania.

Although MSC has been trying to restart longer cruises that sail to the eastern Mediterranean (using the MSC Magnifica), but these 11-day cruises, initially scheduled to start in mid-February, have now been delayed until at least Easter in early April.

The problems surrounding even a relatively unambitious multi-country cruise remain in place. Passengers find it hard to get to ports, the ports themselves are unavailable, and on-land excursions are sometimes impossible to arrange.

MSC has cancelled several April cruises planned for the eastern Mediterranean, as well as its Northern European itineraries. The western Med and Caribbean cruises will not start before June at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean has announced plans to base its first cruise ship for weekly cruises from Israel to Greece and Cyprus. The company said all passengers would be required to have received their vaccines and that all crew members would also be vaccinated before the cruises begin in May.

2017-built, Malta-flagged, 153,516 gt MSC Seaside is owned by CNS Compania Naviera Seaside 1 care of manager MSC Crociere SpA of Naples, Italy. ISM manager is MSC Cruise Management UK Ltd of Uxbridge, UK. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (European syndicate) on behalf of CNS Compania Naviera Seaside 1 SA.

2019-built, Malta-flagged, 181,541 gt MSC Grandiosa is owned by Vista 3 Compania Naviera SA care of MSC Crociere SpA of Naples, Italy. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (European Syndicate) on behalf of Compania Naviera Vista 3 SA.